What was the Duc d’Anville expedition and how does it relate to The Curse of Oak Island?

The Duc d'Anville expedition
The Duc d’Anville expedition saw some ships forced to turn back to France — Le Mars was attacked and taken by the British

The Duc d’Anville expedition took place from June 1746 through to the fall of the same year and was a huge effort by the French to regain Acadia, part of which is now Nova Scotia, and its capital Port Royal from the British.

The expedition included 11,000 men who were transported across the Atlantic in 64 ships, making it the largest force to head to the continent before the American Revolution. Leading this mighty military task force was Admiral Jean-Baptiste Louis Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld de Roye, Duc d’Anville, who took charge of the 20 warships, 32 transport ships, 21 frigates and 800 cannons!

Over the course of 50 years, French forces and their allies had attempted to take back Acadia six times. This gives a little indication as to why they put so many resources into this attempt and why there was so much pressure on Duc d’Anville to succeed.

However, things got off to a very bad start when a storm in the Bay of Biscay was followed by less than favorable winds and then calm near the Azores. The latter even saw several ships struck by lightning and one even suffering an explosion when a magazine was ignited!

In the end hundreds of fighting men and sailors died of scurvy and typhus and the lack of supplies also dropped morale very low before they even made land. Some ships were forced to return back to France, whilst others ended up as far away as the Caribbean.

It was near the end of September when the expedition finally made it to Nova Scotia, but d’Anville’s woes were far from over. Some men did start to recover from the likes of scurvy as supplies were brought in but disease continued to be a problem. Then less than a week after arriving d’Anville had a fatal stroke and was buried on Nova Scotia’s Georges Island.

Coat of arms of the ducs de La Rochefoucauld
Coat of arms of the Ducs de La Rochefoucauld

His replacements were not much luckier, with one attempting suicide and the other overseeing an unsuccessful campaign that left over 40 percent of the men dead or very ill.

D’Anville himself is of interest to the Oak Island story as his family have links to the island as well. He was born in in 1709 and his father was a remote cousin of the Dukes of La Rochefoucauld. That name came up on The Curse of Oak Island when the team were shown a map by Zena Halpern last season.

Map showing Port Royal and Oak Island
Map showing Port Royal and Oak Island

On this week’s episode, as was shown in a preview, the Oak Island team have also found a copy of a ship’s log that appears to indicate the Duc d’Anville expedition may in some way be linked to the construction of the Money Pit.

As fans know from last week’s episode, the Rochefoucaulds don’t seem to have direct association with the Templar order themselves but they might well have encountered or interacted with them. The family is one of the oldest dynasties in France and took part in the Crusades, where the Templars were very active.

Is it possible the Templars entrusted certain relics or valuables from the Holy Land with the family and then they made their way across during the expedition or independently?

The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on History.

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